My hostel in Tallinn was called “Bunstell” because of Bunski/Sir Nomsalot/whatever he was being called that particular day. The hostel was basically an apartment converted into a 12 bed hostel, and having a pet bunny who lived in a corner only added to the feel that we were all just folks living in an apartment together, rather than a strictly divided Staff/Owner and Guests.

He was great. And adorable.

Sometimes in the evenings he would get super hyper and start dashing around the apartment, skidding around corners like a dog whose nails can’t get a grip on the wooden floor. t was HILARIOUS.

and, because he was always zippin’ around, it was super hard to get a good picture of him.  most of them ended up like this:


Adventure is out there!

Do you want to know what happens sometimes?

Sometimes you’re on a wander through Tallinn on a sunny day, and you come across an abandoned, falling down old warehouse. And you walk past it at first. But 20 feet further on, you stop. And you say to yourself, “Why not? Do it!” And so you go back, and, checking to be sure no one is watching, you duck into the building.

And you feel kind of nervous the whole time you’re in there, and decide not to climb up a bit, even thought it is very tempting, because you are not entirely foolhardy.

And then you duck back out and continue on your wander.

And it is awesome.

That is what happens sometimes.

True Confessions

When I was in Tallinn, I went to about the most kitschy, touristy place I’ve been so far.

It’s a restaurant at the bottom of the old town hall in the main square. It advertises “worthy elk stew, full of flavor experience”, and its servers are women in middle ages costumes. It’s dark and lit by candlelight. The veilings are low and rough-hewn beams jut out. It’s got Estonian folks music playing. The mugs and bowls are rough ceramics. Classic tourist bait.

And I loved it! It totally charmed me.

It was in part because of the warmth, in part because of the prices (each food item only started at 1 euro!), but mostly because of the woman working behind the counter. She was so engaging and joke-y. (“the minimum you have to pay for your order is 6 euro, but 7 or 8 seems better to me… yeah, definitely 8 or 9. Maybe 10?” or “Did you bring your own spoon there in your backpack, or do I have to loan you one of our precious, deluxe spoons? Don’t you try to steal it!”) Maybe she was just putting on a show, but I don’t think so. I think she just loved joking with people, whether it was her coworkers or tourists. And my elk stew and cabbage pastry and foxberry juice were really good!

I just really liked that place a whole lot.

If you are ever in Tallinn (as I’m sure lots of you will be at some point in your life), go there! It’s in the main square “Raejoka Plats” (which I think just means “main square,” since it was called that in Tartu also), at the bottom of the big Town Hall.

Karen Does Science

I know, you may be asking yourself, “Why would Karen need to do Science?” and the answer is: there are some questions which can only be answered through empirical testing.

one such question:

How thick/strong is the ice at the edge of this frozen pond by the Presidential Palace in Tallinn? 

This is clearly a question that can only be answered through experimentation.

I am not a total idiot. I did not jump onto the ice or anything.

I just pushed on it with one of my feet, as I sat on the edge of the pond. That’s way different.

The answer to the question How strong is the ice? is Not very. 

But there is another question, which it turns out I was testing at the very same time. That question was:

Can Karen react quickly enough to pull her foot up before it gets soaked in ice cold water? 

Experimental testing indicates…





The Russian Market

Two of the days that I’ve been here, I’ve gone to the Russian market, over out of the Old Town, past the train station. It’s hard for me to explain it in a way that will give you a sense of the place but here’s my try:

First, a picture, of one aisle of the many-aisle market:

It is like if every garage sale you’ve ever been to set up shop in tin shacks and table in the melting snow, in a kind of sketch neighborhood in Tallinn, Estonia. And also all the thrift stores. And the little corner ethnic grocery stories. And all the sellers were 45+ years old. And spoke Russian. And had each maintained a specific collection of kinds of objects (one table: watches, power cords, socks. another: camera batteries, old bras, tweezers) for the past 20 years and were displaying those collections now.

It is exactly what I imagine the black market to be like, except maybe on the black market they had a smaller selection of items.

Highlights include: legit Russian fur hats from the actual USSR, about a zillion pairs of shoes, gravestones (coffins sold elsewhere, I guess), lots of cranberries at the grocery stalls, and old cameras I had to quickly move away from to keep myself from buying.

It’s pretty great. Go there sometime, if you get the chance.


Today I had to switch hostels, because the one I was staying at was booked out for tonight by the time I booked it last week. Not a big deal, I just booked one night in another hostel fairly close in Tallinn, packed up my stuff this morning, and set off to switch locations.

Well, after two days of cold but sunny, it was raining and windy and cold. Someone called it “Soviet Weather” if that gives you the picture.

Oh well, I am a hearty traveler, and am firmly of the opinion that a little rain never hurt anyone. So off I set.

Below is the route that I looked up beforehand from one hostel to another:

Not a bad walk, just a little over a mile, not too complicated.

…If you know me, you know that this story is about to take a twist.

Thanks to my patented Never Fail, Always  Trustworthy, Generally Quite Impressive Ability to Be Directionally-Challenged, THIS was the route I took:

This turned out to be a 3+ mile scenic tour (in the rain and wind, mind you) of “the other side of town”. The buildings alternated between concrete block apartments and wooden buildings that looked like they were about to fall down. If it had been night time, I would have said it was decidedly “sketch”. I don’t know if this is true, but it felt like closer to what Tallinn might have been like while it was Soviet-controlled, than Old Town does. It was cool to see that, but by the end of my walk, I was reeeally ready to be there.

I manage to go precisely the wrong way, and thereafter have awful instincts about getting back on track. It’s a powerful combination, and one that gets more much more exercise than I am really looking for, a lot of the time.

And this is why I should never be in charge of directions for anything, any time.


This is Old Town Tallinn.

This is where I was standing when I took this picture. Up 247 steep stone stairs.